Hainault Forest Website

Nature Diary for 2005

 

HOME PAGE  DIARY INDEX  JANUARY - FEBRUARY  MARCH - APRIL  MAY - JUNE   JULY - AUGUST  SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER  NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 

November - December 2005

Part of a Clouded agaric ring on Cabin Plain.   Photo: 1st November 2005.

Blackberry leaves with hoar frost.

Field Rose flowering late in November with beads of hoar frost on the petals.     Photos: 20th Nov. 2005

 

Fairy rings are often seen during the autumn on the short turf grassland in the Country Park. They often turn out to be  Marasmius oreades. On the 1st November amongst the trees and scrub on Cabin Plain were some very large rings of the Clouded agaric Clitocybe nebularis. These rings grow outwards each year and must have first formed when Cabin Plain was open grassland and grazed by sheep and cattle, not long after Foxburrows Farm was incorporated into Hainault Forest in 1906. One such ring, pictured above, measured approximately 30 metres in diameter and individual fungi were up to 18 cm. diameter.

 

Temperatures began to fall during the first two of weeks of November. Days were sunny and good sunsets were observed. The first real frost of the winter occurred on the 14th November with a hoar frost on the 20th., when leaves and flowers were covered  in  large water crystals.  This was particularly  noticeable on the Common  opposite  Chigwell Row Primary

The sun's rays in the ancient woodland give an air of mystery.

Photo: 20th November 2005.

Seven spot ladybirds shelter in an old oak leaf still hanging on the tree.

Alf inspects a nest box on the Reserve and removes an old nest. Spiders are often found hiding in these boxes.

Herbie and Zephyr send New Year Greetings

School. The sun's rays shone through the trees in the woodland area. December started mild with showers but the frost was soon back and from the 6th - 11th the mornings started foggy with the sunshine breaking through late afternoon. Christmas Day was bright and sunny, but Boxing Day was overcast with a hint of frost and snow. A few snow flurries came on the 27th and temperatures fell dramatically due to cold north-easterly winds bringing in icy Scandinavian weather. After a day of rain the last day of the year was sunny.

 

On Sunday 11th December at 6am. came news of a series of fires at Hemel Hempstead Oil Refinery. With a north-westerly wind blowing black smoke was soon to be seen over Hainault Forest and by Monday a dark pall blotted out the sun on a couple of occasions. The fire took several days to extinguish.

 

Leaf fall was staggered this autumn and hornbeam leaves finally turned yellow and were falling at the beginning of December. The Oaks held on to their leaves for a bit longer and were mostly gone by Christmas.

 

The last of the butterflies noticed were on the 16th November which was cold and sunny but managed to tempt Red admirals and Speckled woods to settle on the tree trunks and absorb the warmth of the sun's rays.

 

Several flowering plants seem to be in flower for twelve months of the year and include the Red and White deadnettles. Other late flowers noticed were Thyme-leaved speedwell, Knapweed or Hardheads, and the Field rose mentioned earlier. The European gorse Ulex europaeus flowers throughout most of the year on Cabin Plain and the Country Park and is particularly noticeable at this time of year. It's non-flowering period is for a couple of months in the summer when the Dwarf gorse U. minor flowers on the heathland area.

 

On the lake during the period the usual coots, moorhens, mallard and a pair of Mute swans were present. A small number of Shoveler Ducks are present from time to time. On the 14th November a Black swan appeared and was found to be injured. It was collected by the Swan Sanctuary to be cared for. A large flock of the ever present Canada geese are occasionally joined by a much smaller Barnacle goose and they graze the grassland area

 

On Hainault Lodge Nature Reserve volunteers are present most Sundays. Work has included hedge laying and dead hedging. One important job is removing old nests from the many nest boxes to allow them to be used again in the spring. Most boxes are used, mainly by Blue tits to rear their families. On the 11th December there were flocks of Long-tailed tits searching the large lime trees for insects to feed on. Greater-spotted woodpeckers were seen and heard calling. Hiding in an old oak leaf still hanging from the tree were some seven-spot ladybirds. These will hibernate in leaves and cracks in bark to re-emerge in the spring.

 

The farm was closed for a few weeks in December when some of the old fencing was removed and replaced. Some old dead trees were felled for safety reasons. Other fencing was painted and the animal houses were given a coat of creosote substitute waterproofing and repairs carried out. Zephyr the donkey and his younger friend Herbie continue to be favourites with the farm visitors. Magpies are present in large numbers and are often joined by Jackdaws. Pied wagtails are seen by the farm buildings and Goldfinch flocks continue to feed amongst the thistles and scrub areas of the farm.

 

 

Shoveler Ducks and Drakes on the Lake 31st December 2005.

 JANUARY - FEBRUARY   MARCH - APRIL   MAY - JUNE     JULY - AUGUST   SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER   NOVEMBER - DECEMBER   

September - October 2005

Partial solar eclipse on 3rd October. The Sun's image was reflected using a mirror into a barn at 10.35am. 

A partial eclipse of the sun took place on the 3rd October. It started at 8.50am BST. and finished at 11.15am BST. The moon passed from west to east across the lower part of the sun's disc obscuring about 57% at mid eclipse. Unfortunately the morning was cloudy in Hainault Forest and the sun finally broke through the cloud at 10.30am BST. The image was taken using a mirror to reflect the sun's image. As a result, the image is inverted and reversed.

 

The rare Podoscypha multizonata on Cabin Hill

Parrot wax cap

Hygrocybe psittacina

Two very successful public walks took place during the period. On the 25th September I led a general autumn walk in the forest when over 40 people turned up. We noted the Horse Chestnut disease which is present in Redbridge caused by a micro moth Cameraria ohridella and saw the Ivy and Michaelmas daisy which were just coming into flower. Late flowering plants are very important in  providing nectar  to butterflies  and other late insects. It  was a pleasant  day and on the 2nd October local mycologist Peter Comber led a fungal foray where there were in excess of 50 people and 48 species were found including a new one for the forest - Mycena crocata  and a rare fungus Podoscypha multizonata which appears present in good numbers.  A fungal foray for the British Naturalists Association on 15th October found 50 species including a Parrot Wax Cap Hygrocybe psittacina new to the forest which was found on a grassy mound to the north of the lake. The cap is slimy and olive green and it has a green stem dark at the top.

Ivy flowers

Michaelmas daisies

Pale Tussock moth caterpillar  (40mm.).

Cross spider Araneus diadematus Abdomen 13mm.

The Drinker moth caterpillar  (25mm) on sheep wire fencing. 28th Sept.

September started with very hot weather from the 1-4th   and subsequently was generally good and warm for the time of year with little rainfall. The day would often start cloudy and brighten by the afternoon. A heavy drizzle occurred on the 13th October when the weather turned cooler in the mornings with some fog clearing later with bright sunshine. A sign of autumn was the numerous spiders webs covered in droplets of dew on a foggy morning of the 17th October. Showery rain sometimes very heavy, bright periods and windy weather dominated much of the remainder of October.  

 

The Nature Trail was formally opened by the Mayor, Councillor Charles Elliman accompanied by the Mayoress on the 27th September. Full details on the Woodhenge page. Work in the Country park is continuing with thinning the trees near the lake, levelling, clearing and widening  paths and edges for pedestrian and disabled use. On the farm there is ongoing maintenance including repairs, fence and shed painting. Plans and discussions are ongoing to prepare for the Centenary celebrations to take place throughout 2006 and on the 15th and 16th July.

 

Swallows and House martins had been gathering around the farm buildings in the first half of September but by the 22nd had departed the area on their long migrations to Southern Africa. Large numbers of Magpies frequent the farm often accompanied by Jackdaws which have been particularly numerous in the Country Park this year. The Goldfinch is commonly seen feeding on the thistle heads. Around the farm buildings Pied wagtails are often seen. Late October saw the return of Redwings although there are few hawthorn berries available to them this year. Much of the hawthorn scrub was defoliated by caterpillars in the early spring and this affected the May blossom. On the lake a few Shovelers have been seen and they generally increase in numbers during the winter months.

 

A Pale Tussock moth caterpillar Calliteara pudibunda was found on the ground near the visitors centre. It is a pale green hairy caterpillar with punk-like white tufts of hairs on the 4-7th segments and a red tuft for a tail. It is closely related to the Vapourer moth which has similar white tufts of hairs. (See July-August Diary). On wire surrounding a sheep enclosure a tiny caterpillar was found and later identified as a The Drinker moth caterpillar Euthrix potatoria. It rests by day and feeds by night on grasses. It hibernates late October in grass tussocks, emerging in the spring to continue feeding, when it grows up to 70mm in length, before pupating for a month and emerging as an adult in July. A orange coloured Cross spider was found on the farm amongst the hay. Cross spiders are very variable in their colouration. Yellow 22-spot ladybirds have been numerous on the farm  fence posts at ground level amongst the grass tufts and several Devil's coach horse beetles Ocypus olens have been found. It is a large black beetle which raises its "tail" when disturbed. It feeds at night on slugs.

 

Horse Chestnut Disease in Redbridge

 

Leaf fall has occurred early for the Horse Chestnuts in Redbridge. The leaf, so recently adopted by  Redbridge Council as a new logo and symbol for its letterheads has succumbed to a debilitating infestation which has been seen in Hainault Forest, The Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve, The Roding Valley and many parks. The Forestry Commission told me of severe infestation in Woodford.

It is caused by a tiny micro moth 0.5cm in length which lays her eggs in the leaf.  On hatching the tiny caterpillar eats its way within the leaf forming a mine in which it pupates. The new moth will emerge in April to attack further Horse Chestnut trees.

The moth Cameraria ohridella was first described as a new species in 1986 in Macedonia, Northern Greece, appearing in Austria later. Since 2002 it has now spread into the European countries bordering the North Sea, Central Europe, France Spain and Italy.

In 2002 it also appeared in the London Borough of Wimbledon and by 2005 heavy infestations  and severe damage were reported in most of the Greater London area with lesser infestations in places as far apart as Norfolk and Newport, Gwent.

Because of the heavy infestation in Greater London, the leaves curl and fall much earlier than usual. The Forestry Commission are monitoring the effect on the general well being of the tree in the long term.

Details can be found on their website at:

www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/INFD-68JJRC

 

 

Horse Chestnut leaf showing about 40 mines.

Close up shows two mines each with a larva and a circular mass of frass.

Alf, Vi and Don examine infected leaves at Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve.

 

 

Centenary Year

is  2006

 

 JANUARY - FEBRUARY   MARCH - APRIL   MAY - JUNE     JULY - AUGUST   SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER   NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 

July - August 2005

July started overcast, cool and occasionally showery weather with a hot spell starting on the 12th for five days with a day time temperature of 30C on the 14th. Cloudy weather followed with the sun appearing in the afternoons and evenings.

FROGBIT

WATER SOLDIER

WASP SPIDER

BARNACLE GALLS Andricus testaceipes on underground oak stem

GOOSEBERRY GALL Andricus grossulariae is now spreading around the forest

CHERRY GALLS Cynips quercusfolii attached to oak leaves.

Top: HEDGEHOG GALL Andricus lucidus

Below: BUD GALL Andricus solitarius

VAPOURER MOTH Cocoon with eggs on the outside.

Attractive VAPOURER MOTH caterpillar

POPLAR GREY MOTH Caterpillar

HORSE CHESTNUT leaf with blotch mines.

HORSE CHESTNUT BLOTCH MINE Cameraria ohridella - a micro moth. The tiny larva can be seen in each mine together with the frass.

What little rain there was came in the last week with periods of drizzle, showers and persistent rain. Four brave souls turned out in the rain for the beginners gall walk on the 24th. Most of August  was average  summer temperatures with mainly cloud and  sun with heavy  rain falling on the  13th, 14th, 19th, 22nd and  24th. There was an  improvement for  the  last week  with clear blue skies,  ending with  an oppressive day on the 31st with the temperature again at 30C.

 

I cannot ever recall seeing Frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae in flower before, but for the first two weeks in July there were many plants in flower in Sheepwater. It is a floating plant with tiny round leaves. The flowers are white with three petals. A closely related species the Water soldier Stratiotes aloides was also in flower, this time in the pond on Chigwell Row Recreation Ground. This plant is normally submerged but rises to the surface to flower.

 

Two female wasp spiders Argiope bruennichi were found on their webs in Latchford Meadow in late August. The Conservation team tell me that there were a dozen or so seen in Seven Kings Park at the same time. In Collins Field Guide to Spiders by Michael J. Roberts it was described as a southern coastal species, absent from the rest of Britain, when the book was published in 1995. Clearly it has been on the march in the past ten years. I remember seeing it at a Nature Reserve in Grays, Essex in 2000. Wasp spiders may decorate their webs with a silk ribbon which is shown as a zigzag in the lower part of the picture left.

 

A meeting of the British Plant Gall Society was held in the forest on the 20th August and 42 species were recorded with several new additions to the list which has now reached 128 since I started recording them in 2001. Jerry Bowdrey, Gall Recorder for Essex demonstrated Barnacle galls Andricus testaceipes on the below ground main stem of Oak saplings in Latchford Meadow. There is an association between these galls and ants. Knopper, Cherry, Ramshorn and Gooseberry galls are very numerous this year and as predicted in the September - October 2004 diary pages, the Hedgehog gall Andricus lucidus has been found, in fact an old gall from last year was found still attached to the oak tree.

 

The female Vapourer moth Orgyia antiqua is wingless and on emergence from the pupal case lays her batch of  eggs on the outside of the case. An old case was found on 20th August attached to an oak leaf which is one of the preferred food plants for the larvae. While searching oak trees on Fairlop Plain on the 31st August I came across the very attractive caterpillar. It is hairy with red spots and four tufts of bristles on segments 4-7. Another hairy caterpillar was found on Black poplar near the lake. The Poplar Grey Acronicta megacephala is pale grey and has a prominent white blotch on the tenth segment.

 

Most of the moths that we see flying by day or at night belong to the Macro moths. There are many, very tiny moths, collectively referred to as Micro moths, which are not seen or recognised as such by the average person. The caterpillars or larvae may spend the first part of their life cycle tunnelling in plant leaves where they leave characteristic snake-like or blotch-like mines. One such moth is damaging the leaves of Horse Chestnut in Hainault Forest with 20-30 mines on each leaf. The micro moth in question is Cameraria ohridella which was discovered in Macedonia in 1985 and first recorded in the UK in 2002 where it is rapidly advancing and may cause defoliation. A close up of two mines (left) show a central mass of waste products or frass. The tiny larvae can also be seen. They will pupate in the leaf.

For more information on Leaf mines visit www.leafmines.co.uk

 

 

Centenary Year

is  2006

 

 JANUARY - FEBRUARY   MARCH - APRIL   MAY - JUNE     JULY - AUGUST   SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER   NOVEMBER - DECEMBER   

 

May - June 2005

May's weather was often cold, windy, showery and overcast. The first sign of summer came with high temperatures on the 2-3rd June followed by thunderstorms, then again 7-9th June and then as predicted hot weather came on the 17th June for eight days with temperatures over the eighties and finishing with lightning and thunderstorms. A planned walk for the Redbridge Walk to Health on the 22nd., over the fields to Chigwell was changed to a much more agreeable walk through the much cooler shady woodlands at Chigwell Row and Lambourne End.

Mottled Umber caterpillar

Figure of Eight caterpillar

Oak Sawfly larva

As the trees came into leaf in May they were attacked by various caterpillars and insects, and the Oaks, Hawthorns, Limes and several other species were completely defoliated. Good news for the foraging birds who found a plentiful supply of food for their offspring. Two culprits of the defoliation were the caterpillars of Mottled umber moth Erannis defoliaria caterpillars which were found everywhere and eating ravenously the foliage of many species of trees, and the Oak Tortrix Tortrix viridana moth whose caterpillars hang from gossamer threads and feed on the Oak. They completed their life cycle and the small pale green moths were on the wing on the 12th June. The attractive caterpillar of the Figure of Eight moth Diloba caeruleocephala was abundant on Blackthorn and while searching an Oak I came across strange looking larvae of Oak sawfly Periclista lineolata and also some Red-tipped Flower beetles Malachius sp..

Red-tipped Flower beetles among the buds and emergent leaves of Oak

St. Mark's flies

Female Mallard with ducklings

Large Skipper butterfly

Epping Forest Country Care bridge building on the Common.

From the beginning of May for a couple of weeks the whole forest, grassland and Common were infested with swarms of St. Mark's flies Bibio marci. Although harmless it was particularly unpleasant to have to walk through so many. St. Mark's fly normally puts in an appearance on or around St. Mark's Day the 25th April, but never in such large numbers as this year.

During the period despite the poor weather in May butterflies put in an appearance whenever the opportunity arose. Brimstone, Small tortoiseshell, Comma, Holly blue, Orange tip, Green-veined white, Speckled wood and Brimstone were followed in June by Red admiral, Common blue, Small white, Small copper, Meadow brown and Gatekeeper. On Latchford meadow and the heathland the black and crimson Six-spot burnet moths were flying from the 17th June. While walking around the heathland I came across two gentlemen photographing insects. They were members of the East London Nature Photographers and they have an excellent website at www.eastlondonnature.co.uk and I was particularly interested in the Hainault, Fairlop Waters and Epping Forest Pages.

May 2004 saw the first record for Essex of the Gooseberry gall which was found on one Turkey oak tree. This year many of the Turkey oaks were galled and it appeared widespread, appearing in Claybury, Weald Park and Bedfords Park. Several other galls have been added to  Hainault's list for the first time this year, with yellow pustule galls on Wild Service Tree, petiole (leaf stalk) galls on Common lime, and leaf roll gall on Purging buckthorn. Pocket plums caused by a fungus were very common this year on Blackthorn.

While walking through the woodland near Roe's Well and Sheepwater on 12th June, the scent of the Honeysuckle was very noticeable and pleasant. Other flowers noted were Bugle, Yellow pimpernel and Sanicle. The Bluebells were in evidence on the Spring walk on 8th May amongst which were large patches of Wood sorrel. The Veteran tree days organized by Paul Hewitt of Epping Forest Country Care, and Mark Hanson of the Essex Field Club made participants aware of the old historic trees in the forest and discussed methods of recording them, caring for them and protecting them as part of our living history.

I first heard the Cuckoo on the 5th May and Blackcaps, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat were much in evidence around the farm and on Dog Kennel Hill. For several days around mid May the forest was alive with flocks of garrulous Starlings. On the lake the pair of swans produced six cygnets, and there were Canada goslings and Mallard ducklings to be seen.

On the farm the big event was the birth of five Soay sheep which included one black lamb which is a rare occurrence, and also three Badger face lambs, and a Poll Dorset lamb. Ken the Badger-face ram finally went back to his farm in Faversham, Kent. The Soay sheep shed their wool naturally during the spring, but the other sheep were sheared on the 24th June.

Conservation work continues and volunteers are welcome to come along for the day or part of the day. Dates are in the What's on page. On the 5th June the Epping Forest Country Care and volunteers installed a bridge from the Common car park over the ditch on to the Common.

The Nature and Cultural Trail is continuing to progress and on the 3rd June four large sculptures were in place in a clearing near the lake, as part of a large circle known as Woodhenge which will be the centerpiece of the trail. Later sculptures will include the wildlife of the forest. It is intended as an amphitheatre, an open air classroom and meeting point. The sculptures represent Fire and Growth, Water, Wind, and Man's interaction. Woodhenge can be spotted from the top of Dog Kennel Hill.

The Centenary in 2006 is being discussed. There will be a weekend of celebrations on the 15-16th July and events will be held throughout the year. A full programme will be issued in time for the New Year.

 

Centenary Year

is  2006

 

 

Petiole gall on Common Lime.

Galls on Wild Service tree leaf.

Gooseberry galls on Turkey oak

 JANUARY - FEBRUARY   MARCH - APRIL   MAY - JUNE     JULY - AUGUST   SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER   NOVEMBER - DECEMBER   

March - April 2005

Pair of Common toads in amplexus in the lake.

Jack-by-the-hedge Alliaria petiolata with tiny orange egg of the Orange tip butterfly attached to the flower stem.

Bee fly Bombylius major

Drone fly Eristalis tenax resting on Wych elm seeds.

Silver-leaved Yellow archangel

Lamiastrum galeobdolon ssp. argentatum. A garden escape.

The alga Trentepohlia on several of the tree trunks in the forest.

March started with sleet and rain and remained cool for most of the month with some sunshine. Easter Saturday the 26th was very warm and sunny. Temperatures for April picked up and latterly the typical showers and sunny spells set in. On the 23rd March Common frogs were spawning in the lake and Common toads were pairing. There was masses of frog spawn in Roes Well. It was difficult to count the individual spawn but it covered about 5 square metres of surface area in the shallow part of the pond. Approximately 60 pairs of frogs were counted in Sheepwater, but there may have been more than double this number. Survival of the spawn in Sheepwater is unlikely, due to the large number of goldfish present. On the 24th several strings of toad spawn were found on the north edge of the lake.

 

A warm, sunny day on 23rd March brought out the first butterflies of the season in Hainault Forest. Several Commas were feeding on the Sallow blossom and Peacock butterflies had emerged from hibernation. On the 3rd April the first female Brimstone was seen on Latchford meadow. On the 21st April Speckled wood and Small tortoiseshell were on the wing and on the former reservoir site several male Orange tip butterflies were seen, with the first female noted feeding on bluebells on the 24th. The larval foodplant of the Orange tip butterfly is Garlic mustard also known as Jack-by-the-Hedge. The tiny eggs are laid on the flower stalks.

 

Other insects include 7-spot ladybirds present for most of March and a 10-spot ladybird Adalia decempunctata was found on 26th March. On warm days throughout April Bee flies Bombylius major were on the wing. They hover as they seek out a flower to insert their long proboscis to search for nectar. Although bee-like in appearance they are in fact harmless flies. A Drone fly Eristalis tenax was also on the wing in late April. As the oak started to come into leaf, swarms of metallic long-horned moths were seen. The females rest on the leaf while the males dance in a swarm around them. The males' antennae are about 4 cms long which is about 6 times their body length. The females have smaller antennae - about 1 cm long. The males will only fly in still conditions. The slightest breeze will make them rest on the branches.

 

Coltsfoot was flowering along the southern bank of the lake on the 21st March. The woodland  flowers seen during the period included Wood sorrel, Wood spurge, Lesser celandine, Early dog violet, Barren strawberry, Ground ivy, Cow parsley, Chickweed, Red deadnettle, Ivy-leaved speedwell, Common field speedwell and White deadnettle. In recent years the White deadnettle and Field speedwell can be seen flowering for most of the year. In the woodland lining Woolhampton Way the Silver-leaved Yellow Archangel is to be found. It is a garden escape but widely found throughout England in woodlands. Bluebells are beginning to flower, but will not make a good display until the first week of May.

 

I led a  walk looking for Lower Plants on 13th March when we looked at a few examples of mosses, liverworts, fern and lichens. They are all interesting plants especially observed through a hand lens. Several of the trees had an orange powdery growth on the bark which is the filamentous alga Trentepohlia sp. We made comparisons between Male fern and Broad-buckler fern and found a few plants of Hart's tongue fern growing along a stream. On the 24th April we were privileged to have a visit by the Essex Bryophyte recorder for the Essex Field Club, Dr. Ken Adams who led a walk where he identified several mosses and liverworts new to the forest. A full list is on the Moss page.

 

At the start of the period flocks of Chaffinch and Long-tailed tits were seen in the woodland areas. Great tits were busy calling. On the grassland areas Jackdaws were present. Jays, Magpies and Green woodpeckers were commonly seen. On the 14th April the Swallows were back flying over the farm and farm buildings. Chiff-chaffs were heard calling and on Dog Kennel Hill there appeared to be flocks of them passing through. They were easily seen with the leaf canopy not fully out. On the lake the Mute swan pair are nesting. Hopefully last years disaster will not happen again with only one survivor out of seven cygnets hatched. All the waterfowl are busy nesting - Coots, Moorhen, Great crested grebe, and Mallard. The Canada geese are squabbling over possible nesting sites, as they are prevented from nesting on the island as part of an effort to reduce their numbers in the Country Park.

 

As mentioned in the January/February diary below five Soay sheep arrived at the Country Park. A highlight for the Country Park in April was the birth of several lambs. The first were twin ewe lambs born on the 7th April. These were followed on the 16th April by another set of twins. This time it was a ewe and ram lamb. On the 21st April a ram lamb was born. This was completely black with no markings. It is uncommon to find a totally black Soay sheep. Soay sheep are a hardy breed and all the lambs are doing well, gambolling and playing together. There are some more pictures on the News page.

 

 

 JANUARY - FEBRUARY   MARCH - APRIL   MAY - JUNE   JULY - AUGUST   SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER   NOVEMBER - DECEMBER   

 

Soay and Norfolk Horn sheep are back on the farm

Cormorants resting  and wing drying on 19th January.

Lake conservation area repairs

Part of an old cloth map showing the tree planting around the lake outfall in 1910 by the LCC.

Members of Redbridge & Waltham Forest Branch of the National Health Service Retirement Fellowship walking in Hainault Forest in January.

Photo:    Syd Wallis

Local members of EWT, BNA and West Essex Ramblers on Crabtree Hill in January are dwarfed by the ancient  boundary Oak.   

Photo:   Ron Andrews

Part of an engraving of a VIEW IN HAINAULT FOREST from a book

Anon (1853) English Forests and Forest Trees, published by Ingram, Cooke and Co., London.

At the beginning of the period there were several days of gales which felled several trees in the forest particularly some old Crack willows around the lake. By the end of February after several cold spells and forecasts of snow a light covering finally came but quickly melted, and there was a return to warmer temperatures.

 

On the lake the number of Cormorants has gradually increased with about a dozen present on the 19th January. Their appetite for fish especially small Roach the mainstay of Junior and Adult anglers is presenting a problem for Hollow Angling Club who spend a great deal of money restocking the lake. General fishing has been poor although Pike up to 21 lbs have been caught. According to Hollow Angling's Bankside magazine although control of Cormorants is authorised by Government, none of the measures available is allowed in the Country Park.

 

In the Nature Conservation area of the lake a feeding platform has been constructed and the bank has been strengthened using paling. Willow twigs have been planted to form a hedge on the bank side. It is hoped that the bank will recover from the constant erosion by the flocks of Canada geese.

 

Apart from the Canadas and Cormorants the usual waterfowl were present including Mallard, Tufted ducks, Pochard, a Mute swan pair, two pairs of Great created grebes, Moorhen, squabbling Coot defending territories, and a small flock of Shoveller ducks that appear every winter. On the grassland areas flocks of Jackdaws can be seen throughout the winter months. Groups of Long-tailed tits can be seen flying and feeding in the oaks on the farm.

 

An old cloth map showing the planting around the lake when it was created in 1910 was recently found. Several of the trees are still present especially the Black/Water poplars, Abele or White poplar, Plane, Beech, Oak, and White willows. Water poplars Populus nigra betulifolia are not common in the UK and many that were planted in the forest and golf course have disappeared over time. There will need to be some thought given to regeneration.

 

Work is continuing on repairs to fencing and  the surface of the paths and rides especially along Dog Kennel Hill where drainage is poor and there is much mud, making passage difficult for all users. The Woodland Trust in conjunction with Epping Forest District Countrycare Volunteers have been working on the Heathland area on the third Sunday in the month. On a cold February Sunday 17 local people turned up to help clear the invasive scrub, and it is good to have a local interest in what is essentially a local amenity. Further work parties are planned for 20th March and 3rd April. Details will be posted locally and on the What's on page.

 

Hazel catkins were present early January at Hainault Lodge. Hazel is very scarce tree in the forest. There has been some planting in the plantation area but these will take several years to mature providing they survive the attacks by Rabbits and Muntjac resulting from losing their tree guards. Flowering all year now are the White deadnettle and the Common Field Speedwell and the Red deadnettle is just coming into flower. Blackthorn buds are showing white and will shortly burst into flower. 

 

I led two walks in the Forest in January. On a Friday afternoon retired health workers from the Redbridge and Waltham Forest branch of the NHS Retirement Fellowship spent a couple of hours walking and being shown various aspects of the forest, and on a Sunday morning local Essex Wildlife Trust, British Naturalist Association and Essex Ramblers had a walk in the Lambourne Forest, the ancient wooded part of the Forest looking at magnificent Hornbeam pollards, a Purging buckthorn - possibly the third largest in the UK and the ancient boundary oak which proudly stands on the top of Crabtree Hill. Although muddy at this time of year, it is a lovely part of the forest to walk.

 

New stock is beginning to arrive on the Rare breeds farm and Children's Zoo - a Norfolk Black turkey hen, a mate for Paxo the Bronze turkey stag; two female Red squirrels which will make two breeding pairs; and some Soay and Norfolk Horn sheep. Soay are primitive sheep which are feral on the islands of Soay and St. Kilda, uninhabited islands, 50 miles west in the Atlantic beyond the Outer Hebrides. This is a group of islands which were abandoned in the early 1930's because of their remoteness and contact with the mainland for most of the year. Apart from potatoes and grain, gannets and other seabirds provided eggs, meat, oil and feathers. The Soay sheep provided wool and meat. Cooking was from peat cut on the island and wood washed up on the shores. The main island of St. Kilda - Hirta is now occupied by the army and also volunteers from the Scottish Wildlife Trust who carry out tasks during the summer repairing some of the houses in Village Bay. It is a wonderful experience to chance the sea crossing on a charter holiday and visit these remote islands. Norfolk Horn sheep are a medium breed which were once farmed in the forest, and are shown in an engraving dating before 1853 probably at Lawn Farm which lay just behind Hainault Lodge. It is a small breed, not commercially successful and in consequence its numbers at one time fell to dangerous levels. The much larger and profitable Suffolk was bred from Norfolk rams and Southdown ewes and first recognised as a breed in 1810. For more photographs visit the Rare breeds farm page.